City Guide: Oxford, England

The mention of Oxford invokes visions of green lawns and candlelit libraries, gliding punts and twinkling spires. Look beyond the butter-toned buildings and boat houses, however, and you’ll discover a vibrant city of contemporary art and dynamic food destinations, all hidden along the historic cobbled streets.

The mention of Oxford tends to invoke visions of green lawns and candlelit libraries, gliding punts and twinkling spires. Look beyond these, however, and you'll discover a city that has inspired much more, from Alice in Wonderful to the Mini; Radiohead to Brideshead Revisited. Not to mention the famous Oxford Marmalade, whose first batch of amber nectar was cooked up in 1874.

While this is undoubtedly a city steeped in heritage - home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Britain's most ancient music hall and the UK's first botanical garden - it is as modern as it is traditional. From thought-provoking contemporary art to dynamic foodie start-ups that put sustainability at the fore, Oxford has never been more vibrant, nor more diverse. For travellers from near or far, the city has enough down-the-rabbit-hole magic to satisfy all tastes and appetites.

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Old Parsonage

Filling a 17th-century building, the Old Parsonage is an intimate hotel that welcomes guests through stone gates and an impressive wooden door. Historic on the outside and contemporary within, seductive tones of rich plum and deep red are brought to life by a lively art collection and excellent restaurant. Explore Oxford on the hotel’s complimentary (and very good) walking tour, or borrow one of their bicycles to get lost in the city of dreaming spires on your own.

Address

1-3 Banbury Road Oxford OX2 6NN

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Artist Residence, Oxford

This 16th-century inn has five luxurious bedrooms nestled under its homely thatch. Choose from the “Rabbit Hole” or the spacious “Barn Suite” with all rooms finished with a trademark mix of antiquary and bohemian styling. Downstairs, Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, designed in collaboration with artists The Connor Brothers, is a welcoming country pub. While we can’t imagine ever wanting to leave this place, Artist Residence is conveniently located near Blenheim Palace, Bicester Village and Daylesford cookery school, should the notion take you.

Address

Station Road South Leigh Witney OX29 6XN

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The Porterhouse

With a prime location in the heart of Oxford, this grown-up hotel is a strong option for city breakers. Rooms are painted in lacquers of charcoal paint and outfitted in Scandi-style furniture – there are only seven so make sure to book well in advance – while the moody charcoal-powered steakhouse on the ground floor is a local hero. Vegans will cringe and steak lovers will drool.

Address

68-69 Mill Street Oxford OX2 0AL

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Double Red Duke

Where 17th-century coaching inn meets aristocratic manor. Chef and meat-aholic Richard Turner (of Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue fame) has created a menu that’s all about cooking over an open fire. Expect large hunks of local meat and fish, expertly charred over Richard’s bespoke rotisserie and wood-fired grill. Downstairs is a warren of snugs and lounges, while upstairs in the 19 individually decorated bedrooms you’ll find exposed beams, roll-top baths and funky fabrics galore.

Address

Bourton Road, Bampton OX18 2RB

The Exterior of The Randolph, Oxford

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The Randolph Hotel

You know how Netflix’s Sex Education had British accents and a British film location but all the iconic retro hallmarks of an American high school? The Randolph, recently taken over by the Graduate Hotels group, feels exactly the same. The historic Oxford property (the sort of place grandparents would take you for a hot chocolate) has had a serious and much-needed facelift. It’s kitsch, OTT, and an utterly glorious homage to the university city. Breakfast is a highlight, with every old-school British classic you could wish for gracing the menu.

Address

Beaumont St, OX1 2LN

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a Belmond Hotel

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Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Raymond Blanc’s deliciously indulgent hotel in the Oxfordshire countryside needs no introduction. A historic stately home turned into one of the country’s finest hotels, this is the place for gourmands to hone their skills by spending a morning with the pastry chef, stroll the kitchen gardens admiring myriad mint varieties, or simply put their feet up and enjoy a two-Michelin-starred dinner overseen by the man himself. Once you’ve feasted to excess, retire to one of the manor house’s 32 individually designed guest rooms, each of which draws inspiration from Blanc’s travels.

Address

Church Rd, Great Milton, OX44 7PD

A rooftop suite at the The Old Bank Hotel, Oxford

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Old Bank Hotel

A handful of characterful hotels are sprinkled through Oxford’s collegiate centre, none more rarefied than the Old Bank Hotel, which is perched on the High Street, and flanked by the Radcliffe Camera on one side and the verdant expanse of Christchurch Meadow on the other. But don’t go booking just any of its 42 rooms (though you could do worse than Georgian alcoves and wood panelling): plan well ahead to bag the hotel’s breathtaking star offering – The Room with the View. Accommodating up to four, with a Carrara marble bathroom and artworks that pay homage to the late British sculptor Geoffrey Clarke, it’s really all about… the view. Expect a matchless city panorama that simply has to be seen to be believed.

Address

92-94 High St, OX1 4BJ